28 January 2011

Nigella's Strawberry crumble

I love the colour of strawberries so got a bit carried away with the photos
As you may have noticed I'm a bit of a Nigella fiend an when I was having seven people to dinner last Friday night and needed something easy to make for pudding I thought it would be a good time to try out something from her newest book Kitchen. My mum recommended the Strawberry Crumble so I felt confident that this wouldn't be a complete disaster (lets face it sometimes Nigella's things just don't work for whatever reason).

It turned out to be the perfect pud. I assembled it when I got home and then had it in the fridge ready to go into the oven at the right time but I could have done it the night before if I'd felt so inclined. My husband kept making comments about getting strawberries at this time of year and yes it is better to buy locally and get what's in season. I have no excuse. I wanted to make Strawberry crumble. So I did and here it is...

Serves 6

500g strawberries, hulled
50g caster sugar
25g ground almonds
4 tsps vanilla extract

For the topping:
110g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
75g cold butter, sliced
100g flaked almonds
75g demerara sugar

double cream to serve

You'll need an ovenproof pie dish that's approx 1.25lt in capacity. I never know what that means so I put the strawberries in a bowl that looked about big enough. I also only used a scattering of flaked almonds on the top rather than the full 100g mixed into the crumble but that's up to you. You will need the oven pre-heated to 200c/Gas Mark 6

Hulled strawberries
1. Put the hulled strawberries into your dish and sprinkle over the sugar, ground almonds and vanilla. Shake the strawberries about to distribute the sugar etc. They don't need to be perfectly flat but you don't want it too lumpy when you put the topping on.
Sugar and stuff on strawberries

2. Make the crumble topping by putting the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl and rubbing in the cold butter. It should resemble rough oatmeal when you've finished. Stir in the flaked almonds and sugar with a fork.

3. Tip the crumble over the strawberries covering them with an even layer and press down the edges a bit. If you are making this in advance (you can make it up to 1 day ahead, keep it in the fridge and then add 10 mins to the cooking time) then plonk it in the fridge now.
Crumbled and clingfilmed

4. If you are cooking straight away then put it on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until it's bubbling and crumble like.
Completed crumble

It was yummy...

26 January 2011

Cupboard Love continued...


It's finished it's completed it's AMAZING and I love it. It is full already though. So here are some pictures for those of you with small kitchens who dream of having a pantry... do it.



23 January 2011

Spicy Spinach Cannelloni

It's not that we're jumping on the whole January diet bandwagon... we're always trying to lose weight so that is why I have a WeightWatchers cookbook. It does actually have some great recipes in there but when Joe declared that we eat too much meat (is that possible?) we decided to try WeightWatchers Spicy Spinach Cannelloni. I duly bought the ingredients, was far from optimistic and assumed I'd make it, it would be gross and we would end the eating cutting massive chunks off the chorizo sausage that somehow made its way into our fridge. To add more pressure a friend of mine decided to come for dinner... oh the shame of cooking bland diet food.

However, bland it was not and I'm really pleased we tried it. I have ear marked it for next time my unadventurous friend and his veggie girlfriend come round.

Serves 3-4

1 x can 400g chopped tomatoes with onions and herbs (I added my own)
100ml vegetable stock
1 x 250g pot Quark or Marscapone
1 egg yolk
1 red chili, de-seeded and chopped finely
375g frozen spinach, defrosted
150g low fat soft cheese with garlic and herbs
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
125g cannelloni tubes
2 tbsps roughly chopped fresh coriander

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 6. Now I know - what the hell is Quark?? from what I can work out it's basically a cheese substitute. Sainsburys do stock it but then it didn't arrive with my delivery so I used marscapone instead which was absolutely fine. I would also recommend a naughty grate of cheddar on top to make this absolutely perfect but that obviously goes against the whole low fat point of this recipe. For those of  you who care or indeed understand these things this recipe apparently has just 267 calories per serving. Also if you don't have a piping bag you can use a teaspoon it'll just be more time consuming.

1. In a jug, mix together the tomatoes, onions and herbs and vegetable stock. Set aside.

2. In a bowl mix together the Quark (or Marscapone), egg yolk and chili. Set aside.

3. Squeeze out the excess water from the spinach and put into a large bowl. Mix with the soft cheese and cayenne pepper. Using a piping bag (with a 2cm nozzle), pipe the mixture into the cannelloni tubes and arrange in a 3 pint ovenproof dish. Pour over the tomato sauce.

4. Dollop the Quark mixture over the top and smooth out using the back of the spoon.

5. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes until golden and the pasta is cooked.

6. Scatter over the coriander and serve immediately.
Spicy Spinach Cannelloni


20 January 2011

Cupboard Love

Ok so I have a backlog of recipes and whimsy that I need to post but I haven't because I've had loads to do in preparation for big dinner party of Joe's grown up friends on Friday and because this week I'm finally getting my lovely pantry cupboard I've been whinging about wanting for months so my teeny tiny flat looks like a bombs hit it. The cupboard was inspired by my Mum - who has a small kitchen, it is not teeny tiny like mine - who had one knocked up one week and it has revolutionised her life. And mine actually as I gaze at it every time I go home for the weekend.

Anyway I was supposed to have it before Christmas but then that didn't happen but today it is being finished and I feel sick with excitement. OK so it'll be finished and not painted which makes me slightly want to book tomorrow as holiday and spend the whole day painting it so that my dinner party guests think that I am living in clean domestic bliss rather than unfinished cupboard horror. In reality they'll turn up, get plastered and not notice my lovely cupboard but I will know its there. But I've realised that it's actually a good thing because I was slightly worried that Joe would not have any chores to do this weekend. I mean tonight he's got to clean and hoover so I can cook up a storm undistracted but then this weekend when I'm working what would he do with himself? Watch tele he wanted to watch? Go to the pub? Actually see his friends? Thank goodness he will now be locked out in the garden painting my cupboard for me and then blowing on it til it dries.

12 January 2011

Jo's Birthday Lemon Drizzle

It was Jo's birthday last weekend, I work with her, she designs lovely book covers and did the bunting for this blog, and we're having tea and cake in her honour tomorrow and her favourite cake is lemon drizzle. I made her one ages ago when she first told me this and it was really hard to find a recipe so I sort of made one up using lots of different variations. I'm sure it's pretty basic but it seemed to go down well. I'm quite pleased it's her favourite because I hate lemon so I won't be tempted to eat it all myself. I'm not really a massive cake eater but since I've given up smoking I can't seem to help myself.

Anyway here it is... it may be horrid. I'm never going to taste it and people may just be being polite!


For the batter:
225g softened salted butter
225g caster sugar
4 eggs
zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
225g self raising flour

For the drizzle:
juice from 2 lemons
120g caster sugar

I use a loaf tin I'm not sure of the exact size technically but it's 9 inches long. I cheat and line it with shop bought liners (I love them... refer back to my I Heart Lakeland post) but otherwise just line with ordinary greaseproof paper. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/356F/Gas Mark 4.

1. Beat the butter and sugar together until its pale and creamy. I use butter that's been out of the fridge then give it a quick 10 seconds in the microwave otherwise my arm feels like it's going to fall off.

2. Add the eggs one at a time and stir in slowly.

3. Sift in the flour and grate in the lemon zest and then stir the whole thing until combined and smooth.

4. Spoon into the cake tin, plonk into the oven and cook for 40-45 mins (mine took 45 mins and my oven is usually on the hot side). Check it's cooked by sticking a skewer in (no you don't need a specialist cake tester). If it comes out clean it's done, if it doesn't, cook it for a couple more minutes and test again.

5. When it's cooked leave it to cool in it's tin on a wire rack.

6. While the cake is cooling whisk together the sugar and lemon juice. Piece the top of the cake with a fork and then pour over the lemon drizzle.

7. Leave the cake to cool completely in it's tin and then tip it out when you want it. Do this somewhere where you don't mind everything being covered in excess sticky lemon drizzle though. Mouse has been licking the floor by our kitchen table ever since and I couldn't work out why.

Got so carried away that I only remembered to take a photo at the end... ta-da!
P.S actually got told this was a 10 out of 10 so was pretty pleased with that!

New Year Bread Rolls for Beginners

I welcomed in the New Year and almost immediately got stuck down with the most horrible lurgy which involved me being bedridden for a week and not going near the kitchen. I am now feeling much better so hauled myself into the kitchen to finally do something with the strong flour Joe bought instead of plain flour months ago and has been silently taunting me ever since.

When I was a cookery school we made bread rolls and the main thing I can remember (apart from discovering that I love kneading) was they seemed most concerned that your shapes were right rather than the taste of the bread. I got in trouble in one of my exams because I made bread rolls and thought for consistency I would make them all the same shape. WRONG they should all have been different shapes apparently. Who knew? Anyway, I thought I'd give these rolls a go last night as the recipe is pretty simple and I had all the ingredients in the cupboard already.

The result was ok... only ok but it did get me enthused about bread baking and so I think one of the things I'd like to do this year is get better at bread. I think the reason why they were only ok is because my oven doesn't go quite hot enough and well... I probably just need a bit more practise. I do think though that the smugness that you get from eating a home made bread roll still make these better than shop bought. I'm also split on using the egg wash - sometimes I think it looks a bit weird and sometimes I like it. I also no longer make fancy shapes. I make roll shapes and put a cross in the top.


Makes about 8

225g (8oz) strong white flour
1 level tsp salt
25g (1oz) butter
15g yeast
65ml (2.5 fl.oz) lukewarm milk
65ml (2.5 fl oz) lukewarm water

Now I know that people are scared of yeast and to be honest they do have reason to be (not like pastry which is actually not scary at all but people are AMAZED when you make your own). In this recipe as you'll see you use a bit of the milk and water to mix with the yeast to activate it. With some yeast that works, with the Allisons bread yeast I was using it didn't. Basically follow the instructions i.e. Allisons say dissolve 1tsp sugar in 150ml lukewarm water, sprinkle in the yeast leave to stand until the top is completely covered in froth (about 10 mins) whisk again and then carry on with your recipe so I did that and just topped up the liquid with a bit of lukewarm milk. I know that sounds confusing but it will make sense when you are doing it. Next time I may try using half and half milk and water to dissolve the sugar in for the yeast.

You'll need a big baking sheet or two smaller ones, a mixing bowl and a couple of tea towels.

1. Sift the flour and salt into a warm mixing bowl (I heat the oven to 50 and stick it in there for five mins while I'm measuring out the flour). Rub in the butter.

2. Blend the yeast with a little of the lukewarm milk and water - or as I've said obey the instructions on the packet and amend the amount of milk and water accordingly.

3. Mix to a soft dough. Place on a lightly floured work surface and knead well for approximately 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and will spring back and when lightly touched. If you don't know how to knead then watch a few kitchen based dramas - Larkrise to Candleford should help - it's like you see on the tele basically. I'm not sure if  you can over knead but I really like doing it and I do it in front of the tele so I tend to go for longer than 10 mins. 

Dough pre-prooving
4. Place the dough in a mixing bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to prove  in a warm place until doubled in size. Everyone says to do this in the airing cupboard. My airing cupboard is only hot when the hot water is on so I left it under the radiator in our bedroom which seemed to do the trick - it took about half an hour or so to double in size.

5. Knock back the dough, cut into 8 pieces or however many rolls you want. Shape and place on a greased baking sheet (I used the cheat reusable sheets). Prove in a warm place until doubled in size
Prooved Dough

6. Pre-heat the over to 230C/446F/Gas Mark 8. If you want to then glaze the top of the rolls with beaten egg... this is purely a looks thing so it's up to you. Bake on the centre shelf for approximately 10 minutes. To test if the rolls are cooked, tap the bottoms, they should sound hollow.

Prooved buns going into the oven
7. Cool on a wire rack. Eat with smugness.

I'm a bit of a heathen - microwave for 40 seconds and add more butter than is healthy.
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